Although it can be stressful to face an aggressive prosecutor, you have some strong criminal defense tactics at your disposal that can help you fight back. But the onus is on you to educate yourself on these defense tactics and utilize them to the fullest extent. One strategy that’s available to you and that we want to briefly look at today is the motion in limine.
What is a motion in limine?
A motion in limine is a motion that’s filed with the court requesting that certain testimony not be provided in open court. This motion is argued outside the presence of the jury to avoid causing any unfair prejudice before the motion is ruled upon. Therefore, a judge will rule on the motion and determine what testimony will be allowed.
This can be a much more effective way to block evidence compared to simply making an objection at trial. This is because it’s hard to “unring the bell,” meaning that even if you block a question or certain testimony at trial, what little information comes out may still affect the jury’s perception of you and your innocence.
What can a motion in limine address?
A motion in limine can address a whole host of issues. If you suspect that a witness’s testimony will be biased or untruthful, then you may want to consider putting that information before the judge.
The same holds true if you suspect that the information that will be provided by the witnesses will be unfairly prejudicial, such as if the witness is going to testify to the details of a soured relationship that make the defendant look bad but are not relevant to the issue at hand.
When can a motion in limine be filed?
These matters need to be addressed well before trial. That’s why you must engage in thorough discovery to figure out who the prosecution intends to call as a witness and how those witnesses intend to testify. Once you do that, you’ll have the information you need to determine if a motion in limine is proper. But you need to get out ahead of these matters so that you can quickly get in front of the court to reduce the risk that you’ll be unfairly prejudiced.
That said, you can still file a motion in limine at any point that you feel it’s necessary. Therefore, if halfway through your trial you find out that an additional witness will be called or new information will be presented, then you and your attorney will want to consider whether a motion in limine is right for you.
Be detailed in your motion and your arguments
When you file a motion in limine, you should be specific as to what the anticipated testimony will be and why even the mere mention of the facts that will be testified to will prejudice you. Your attorney may be able to help you turn to case law here to support your position.
Be aware that a motion in limine is not the only way of protecting yourself. You still need to be prepared to make proper objections at trial so that you can preserve the record as best as possible in case you need to appeal.
These are complicated matters, and with so much on the line, it might be best for you to address them with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.